Most country towns are special because they are quiet and separate from the chaos of towns and cities. These towns proudly display elements of the past, such as a romantic-looking church from the 13th century, a whispering stream that runs through its center or a traditional inn with traces of ancient travellers.
These features fascinate and draw today’s visitors to consider the narratives of those who inhabited the town before them, conjuring up fantastic stories and encouraging them to explore the historic landscapes of the area. Is it any surprise, then, that city dwellers like to escape to the countryside?
Tucked away between the rolling hills of Nevern Valley and the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, and fronting the Preseli Hills, one location epitomizes this idyllic village style and is truly the definition of a tranquil getaway.
Read more:The quiet town with ancient ruins and famous gardens that is one of Wales’s best kept secrets
Bearing the same name as the valley, Nevern is a peaceful village with just a handful of houses, a single inn, a town hall, and a host of historic monuments, including the aforementioned 13th-century church with an ancient Celtic cross, a ‘ bleeding yew and the remains of a motte-and-bailey castle.
Approaching Nevern on the B4582, the first signs of the town you’ll see are the Trewern Arms coat of arms, with a lion and red and white roses, and the Grade II listed old stone bridge. These are a fitting welcome to the parish as, like most of this part of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, it has been a hive of activity since Neolithic times.
The Norman Church of St Brynach is the first landmark you’ll notice jutting out from a stand of ancient trees. As the name suggests, the church is dedicated to Saint Brynach, who is said to have spoken with angels at nearby Carn Ingli (Mountain of Angels).
The church is in the 6th-century clas, an important ecclesiastical center, and is known today for its ‘bleeding’ yew tree and 13-foot-high Celtic cross from the 11th century. The 700-year-old yew is known for its striking red sap that looks like real blood. There are many myths surrounding this unusual feature, one is that the tree bleeds from the unjust hanging of a young man, while another suggests that the tree will bleed until the world is at peace.
Directly in front of this religious building is an 18th-century mounting block, used by the nobility to mount and dismount their horses when attending church. Today, it’s a great place for kids to run up and down. Behind the block is the Nant Gamman stream, which flows through the center of the village and is the start of a lovely country walk.
The walk is an hour and a half through a forest known for its badgers, weasels, rabbits and foxes. This route starts at Nevern Church (St Brynach’s) and continues uphill to the Pilgrim’s Cross, which is a cross carved into the rock. This was an important stopping place for pilgrims on their way to St. David’s Cathedral.
The walk continues uphill to the 12th-century castle of Nevern. The castle was initially a Welsh stronghold before Robert FitzMartin, a Norman lord, took it over and built a motte-and-bailey castle with double earth walls. Here, you can explore the dirt shores of the butte.
There is a shorter walk, which starts at the church and goes only to the Pilgrim’s Cross. This route cuts through the castle.
For those who don’t want a strenuous walk, the town’s main road winds past stone or white houses and many fields. In fact, the fields for the farm animals seem to have a bigger footprint than the entire town, making the space exude a calm and hassle-free lifestyle, one you’ll never want to leave.
The Trewern Arms is a 16th-century coaching inn with a riverside restaurant and garden, serving homemade seasonal dishes made from local produce. Vegans and vegetarians will find plenty to eat here, and dog walkers will be pleased to know that their furry friends are welcome at the bar. The inn also functions as a hotel, with ten rooms available on a bed and breakfast basis. Just over two miles from the town is Newport, which has several accommodation options, including the Llys Meddyg Hotel, an impressive Georgian coaching inn with an award-winning restaurant.
Newport is a great place to explore if you’re staying in Nevern, as it has a long beach and Carreg Coetan Arthur, a cromlech built to bury the dead. King Arthur is believed to have played shuffleboard with the cornerstone of Carreg Coetan, hence its name. Another nearby burial chamber is Pentre Ifan, a 5,000-year-old megalithic monument overlooking Nevern Valley. This burial chamber frames Carn Ingli among its huge vertical stones. Walking to the summit of Carn Ingli takes approximately 45 minutes, passing through Bronze and Iron Age settlements. The top has views that stretch all the way to Ireland!
Back in Nevern, travelers can head eight minutes up the road to Castell Henllys, which is Britain’s only Iron Age village recreated on the very spot where prehistoric people lived 2,000 years ago. Here you’ll find roundabouts, a series of outer defenses, and a barefoot trail lined with clay, tree stumps, gravel, and wood chips. This trail is designed to mimic the route once taken by Celtic warriors.
Further afield are Moylegrove and St Dogmaels. The former is the Welsh version of a ‘chocolate box town’, with Witches Cauldron and Ceibwr Bay (famous for its smuggling activities) nearby. St Dogmaels is another riverside town that is home to the remains of the 12th century St Dogmaels Abbey, where Shakespeare’s plays are performed annually in the summer months.
How to get there:
The best way to get to Nevern is to travel to Carmarthen first. From there take Henfwlch Road and the B4332 to the A487, before changing onto the B4582.